The role played by supply chain actors in the rapid development of groundwater-based irrigated agriculture is analyzed. Agricultural groundwater use has increased tremendously in the past 50 years, leading to the decline of water tables. Groundwater use has enabled intensification of existing farming systems and ensured economic growth. This “groundwater economy” has been growing rapidly due to the initiative of farmers and the involvement of a wide range of supply chain actors, including suppliers of equipment, inputs retailers, and distributors of irrigated agricultural products. In North Africa, the actors in irrigated production chains often operate at the margin of public policies and are usually described as “informal”, “unstructured”, and as participating in “groundwater anarchy”. This paper underlines the crucial role of supply chain actors in the development of groundwater irrigation, a role largely ignored by public policies and rarely studied. The analysis is based on three case studies in Morocco, Tunisia and Algeria, and focuses on the horticultural sub-sector, in particular on onions and tomatoes, which are irrigated high value crops. The study demonstrates that although supply chain actors are catalyzers of the expansion of groundwater irrigation, they could also become actors in adaptation to the declining water tables. Through their informal activities, they help reduce market risks, facilitate credit and access to subsidies, and disseminate innovation. The interest associated with making these actors visible to agricultural institutions is discussed, along with methods of getting them involved in the management of the resource on which they depend.
Hydrogeology Journal – Springer Journals
Published: Apr 20, 2017
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